June 5, 2014
The UFCW Local 555 union gained a victory last week when Oregon Governor signed Senate Bill 1546 into law. The bill contained a provision grocery workers of the Local 555 had advocated for, in which the penalty for the unintentional sale of alcohol to a minor was reduced. As a result of the bill, the penalty for such a first-time offense went down from a misdemeanor to a Class A Violation. The bill was put into effect immediately after it was signed, with overwhelming support from both the House and Senate. The details and text of the bill can be found here.
The local union was instrumental in getting the bill passed, as local member Sarah DeMerritt had testified in support of the bill before the Oregon Senate. Sarah’s testimony was striking: in June of 2013, DeMerritt was working as a Safeway checker when she sold a six-pack of beer to someone she believed was of legal drinking age but was actually part of an Oregon Liquor Control Commission sting. As she told the committee, “I thought the customer looked old enough to purchase alcohol and was a familiar neighbor that I had carded and sold to in the past.” DeMerritt had passed all previous stings and stresses that she takes her responsibility to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors very seriously.
DeMerritt’s unfortunate experience served as the basis of her advocacy for the bill, which was the focus of the Local 555’s latest UFCW Lobby Day. The passage of the bill serves as proof of the success of coordinated political action by workers committed to making a change. If you or your local union want to attempt to effect change through organizing a Lobby Day, this guide will help you.